Pubdate: Fri, 07 Oct 2016
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Tim Collins


The City of Victoria has approved the Cannabis-Related Business
Regulation Bylaw that includes a variety of rules governing the
location, allowable clientele, and hours of operation for medical
marijuana dispensaries. The rules exist as pre-conditions for both the
zoning required for these operations and their business licence

The 38 storefront operators currently known to exist in Victoria may
now only operate if their premises are re-zoned for the purpose and
obtain a specific business licence which will be tied to a series of
operational requirements to safeguard the safety of children and
respect the surrounding community.

Ashley Barclay, the manager of Pineapple Express Dispensary in
Victoria West, feels the bylaw is mostly reasonable in its approach.

"We've already started the re-zoning process by getting the signatures
of neighbouring businesses and the community at large," she said. "In
fact, for a lot of them we didn't even have to approach them; they
came into us and offered up their support. We haven't seen any
pushback on us being here at all."

Coun. Ben Isitt explained how the system in place before was just not

"These dispensaries were opening up across the city and the public
communicated to us that we needed a way to prevent the ad-hoc way
things were going," explained Isitt, adding the regulations came about
after several public hearings where a broad spectrum of positions were

He noted there were no cannabis dispensary operators who spoke against
the bylaw at the last meeting (Sept. 8), and that council heard what
he estimated at 98 per cent approval of the bylaw as written.

But one provision of the bylaw may be problematic for a few of the
existing marijuana dispensaries. It states businesses must not be
located within 200 metres of a school, child care facility, or another
marijuana dispensary. The definition of child care facility is the
root of the problem for some.

"A few cannabis dispensaries are located near child-centred businesses
which are not schools or day cares but still disqualify the locations
for dispensaries," said Barclay.

"That could be very tough. These other businesses were never
considered to be a problem when the dispensaries opened their door,
but now they are. Luckily, we don't have that problem."

On a positive note, Barclay noted the bylaw would at least prevent the
clustering of dispensaries, all operating in competition with one another.

""With the rate these dispensaries were opening, at least this means
we won't have a competing shop opening up next door to us."

Victoria's action has taken place at a time when the entire legal
approach to marijuana consumption is under review.

On April 20, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced
government plans to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017
legalizing marijuana use in Canada. In the interim, the possession of
marijuana for recreational use has not been decriminalized and the
offence remains illegal. If charged and convicted, a first offence can
result in a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.

"It leaves us walking a legal tightrope right now," said Aaron, the
owner of Pineapple Express (who requested his last name not be
published). "At least with this bylaw in place, it gives us some level
of official recognition."

While the sale of cannabis at the shops remains technically illegal
according to federal law, yet, again, a tacit acceptance of the shops
has been adopted at all levels of government and law

"My understanding is simple possession of marijuana is a pretty low
priority for VicPD," said Isitt. "I've been told the Crown
(prosecutor) isn't even approving charges for cases of possession for
personal use."

He added his belief the bylaw has struck a reasonable balance between
safeguarding the safety and well-being of the citizens of Victoria
while avoiding a heavy-handed approach to what may very soon be a
completely legal activity.

"By doing it this way we have ensured a reasonable access (to medical
marijuana) in a safe way to the public. We've allowed a way for its
sale without pushing it underground where organized crime takes over
the sale and distribution," said Isitt.
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